First Steps to Designing Your First Water Pond

Once you have decided to add a water feature or pond in your yard,  you will need to decide on the location and size of the feature.  If you want fish and a variety of plants, it would be best to have a larger in-ground pond.  Or you can decide on a smaller preformed pond, half-barrel or other type of patio-deck water container garden.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and budget.   You can also plan the water feature out in steps (adding rocks, plants, waterfalls, streams) to the base size.

There are several steps to building your pond.  Including but not limited to: Planning, Calculating, Purchasing, Construction and Finalizing.

The planning phase –put it on paper first.   Don’t dig anything, Don’t buy anything–not yet.  This is the best first step for designing your pond—a plan!

You can use Google Map to get a birds eye view of your yard, if it is not covered with trees.  You can use that Google Map photo to ‘draw’ a pond in that precise spot in your yard.  Or you can draw out a base map of your yard then draw in the shape of the pond.  Draw out several designs and when you have what you think is ‘right’.  Then, go outside and take your garden hose.  Yes, a garden hose!

Pond Safety:   Be sure to follow your local building codes to protect children (yours or others) from falling into pond and drowning.

If you have children or small pets, consider purchasing Terrapin’s Safety Turtle. The Safety Turtle personal immersion alarm is an effective “last line of defence” to protect your child against water accidents. An alarm sounds at the base station the instant he or she falls or ventures into the water. The Safety Turtle wireless gate alarm extends this protection to the perimeter pool fence by reinforcing its weakest link – the gate.

Calculating – Before you start digging, calculate the approximate gallonage.  This will be needed for selecting the right size skimmer, filter, UV light system, etc.  Use the calculator in the Help Section (buyer’s guide):

Purchasing:   This is also the time to determine what kind of material your pond will be constructed of.   There are many options—depending on the size of your pond and your budget!

  1. Liner: Some of your options are preformed or prefabricated shell, flexible liner, concrete (it MUST be lined or covered with protective fish-friendly coating!).  Firestone EDPM PondGard liners are the perfect choice for water feature designs such as; Decorative Ponds, Fountains, Hardscapes, GoldFish ponds, Koi Ponds, Reflection Ponds, Streams, Water Gardens, and Waterfalls.
  2. Filtration: There are three types of filtration, they can be pressurized and have UV lights incorporated in them or they can be non-pressurized.
    1. The basic types are Mechanical, Biological and Chemical.
      • Mechanical: Most filter media have a mechanical function. Filter media is used to drag the solid waste out of the water.  Some mechanical filters are pressurized and incorporated UV lamps to clarify the water.  This type of filtration works best to keep the ponds clean and are often used in conjunction with biological and chemical filtration.
      • Biological: Use of plants and bacteria-seeded filter media to support bacteria colonies which convert ammonia from fish and plant waste to less dangerous nitrates.
      • Chemical: Activated carbon removes phosphates, ammonia and other organic waste products by adsorption.  Zeolite removes ammonia and nitrite from the water and can be cleaned by soaking in salt water (6g per litter) for 24 hours and then reused.
  3. Pumps: There are four types of pumps.  They are Direct Drive, Mag Drive, Statuary, and External.
    • Direct Drive pond pumps use a powerful electric motor that turns an impeller to push your pond water in one direction. Best used for large waterfalls and streams.
    • Mag Drive pond pumps are more efficient than Direct Drive pumps but are not as powerful. Best used for waterfalls and streams that only require a moderate water flow.
    • Statuary Pumps, more commonly referred to as fountain pumps, are used to power fountains, spitters, and other stand-alone creative applications in your pond.
    • External Drive pond pumps offer lots of water flow and must be installed outside the water. This type cannot be submerged but it can be effectively hidden in a larger water application. They can also push large amounts of water and are an excellent choice when you need a pond pump with power.
  4. Skimmers:  Skimmers clear particles floating on the pond surface into a skimmer basket which is emptied and cleaned by the pond keeper.
  5. Botton Drains:  Fixed bottom drains, if you decide to use one, must be pipe-fitted and installed at the construction phase of your pond.  Bottom drains pull waste from the bottom of your pond to your mechanical filtration.
  6. Aeration:  Dissolved oxygen is needed for fish health, improved bacteria colonies and to reduce algae blooms.   A air pump introduces air into the pond water and is used year round.
  7. UV Lights:  UV lights changes the DNA of single cell floating algae-dropping it out of the water column.  It also kills parasites and bacteria, so placement is important.  An external UV lamp is usually placed after the skimmer and before the mechanical / biological filter.
  8. Rocks and Boulders may be your most expensive and most difficult (physically) to move.  Keep this in consideration when you design your pond.  A pallet of stone could weigh up to 2000 pounds.   Research and speak with several rock dealers as they can offer assistance in this area!

Construction:  Depending on the size and complexity of your pond / water feature.  You can do it yourself (DIY) or hire a contractor.  If you hire a contractor, ask for references and look at the builder’s portfolio.  If you do it yourself, contact your local pond supply company or koi pond club to draw on their experience which could save you time and money on costly mistakes.

Finalizing:  This is the best part of this project.  Your pond construction is complete and it’s time to clean up the construction area (smooth out the ruts) and prepare to add plants and fish.   Before adding fish, test your water chemistry to insure your pH levels are in the right range (6.8-8.2) to support fish.   Before adding plants, be sure to use aquatic plants (in the pond) and fish safe plants, mulch and stone around the pond.

Happy Ponding!